Thursday, March 5, 2015

A St Paul Hero, An American Hero


In 1980 a Minnesota coach led the US Olympic Hockey Team to a gold medal victory over the highly favored Russian team in an upset that became known as the "miracle on ice." With several Minnesota hockey stars on the team and a coach born and raised in St Paul, you can imagine the excitement in Minnesota.


The coach's name was Herbert Paul Brooks, Jr. He played college hockey for the University of Minnesota Gophers and later coached them to three NCAA championships before signing on as the coach of the 1980 Olympic team.

Disney made a movie of the story, called simply "Miracle."

Tragically, Brooks was killed in a one car accident just north of Minneapolis in August 1983. He fell asleep at the wheel returning home from the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Golf Tournament in Biwabik, Minnesota. He was just 66 years old. I remember hearing with shock about the accident on the radio and the speculation that it was Coach Brooks who was driving.





In 2004, a statue of Herbie was erected in St. Paul's Rice Park across from another of St Paul's famous sons, author F. Scott Fitzgerald. He lifts his arms forever in joy and triumph near the old Civic Center where his team held practice.

Brooks aimed to inspire his teams to greatness with words of wisdom his players called "Brooksisms". Some are appropriate only for the locker room, but here are a few of his gems:

  • Risk something or forever sit with your dreams.
  • You're playing worse everyday and right now you're playing like it's next month.
  • Be better than you are. Set a goal that seems unattainable, and when you reach that goal, set another one even higher."

And my favorite,

  • "Great moments are born from great opportunities."



  1. This is a wonderful statue of a respected and well-loved coach!

  2. Some coaches just seem to really inspire their athletes. Coach Pop for the Spurs is a great example.

  3. I remember those Winter Olympics and that victory well because the Summer Olympics of 1980 were in Moscow and the USA boycotted them. What a talented coach he must have been and a sad way to end his life.

  4. Cynthia, it is a nice statue. I locve the sentence Do you believe in miracles?

  5. I like miracles seen in different ways. It is of course very sad that he left the earth too soon. He could have materialized more miracles that are bound to happen.

    Love those quotes.

  6. I believe the catch phrase in the Brilliant UK production of the Movie - "The Full Monty" was also " I believe in Miracles".
    Interesting that F.Scott Fitzgerald was born in MSP- the SP part.
    Brilliant and eccentric writer. I enjoyed the adaption of his story as a film - "Tender is the Night".
    I think that was based more so on his life and his wife's lives. The music from the film - jazz and classical interwoven is
    Aussie Col

  7. I loved those Olympic Hockey Games and the is one of my favorites. One of those hockey players was my husbands Oral Surgeon...Baker has a practice in Bemidji:)

  8. Great statue of him. Can't say I have heard of him, but he must have been well respected.

  9. How sad that he died so young. I've never heard of him or the movie, but enjoyed reading your post about him.

  10. Great story about the pride of Minnesota. Sad about his life being cut short. It is nice to have his statue there.

  11. It's sad when people die before they've fully realized their lives here on earth but Brooks still made his mark. I like the quote. I think it's true :-)

  12. I haven't seen Miracle, but now I'm wanting to. What a tragedy that he should have passed away so young from such a terrible accident.